Wednesday :: Jun 14, 2006

Calling It Like They See It


by pessimist

Sometimes, one feels like a Goliath is running amok in the land:

Congress Gives Itself 7th Straight Pay Raise
June 13, 2006

Despite record low approval ratings, House lawmakers Tuesday embraced a $3,300 pay raise that will increase their salaries to $168,500. The 2 percent cost-of-living raise would be the seventh straight for members of the House and Senate.

One would-be David rose in a Quixotic bid to defend the economic honor of the American people:

Lawmakers easily squelched a bid by Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, to get a direct vote to block the COLA, which is automatically awarded unless lawmakers vote to block it. "I do not think that it is appropriate to let this bill go through without an up or down vote on whether or not Congress should have an increase in its own pay," Matheson said.
He was the only member to speak on the topic.
By a 249-167 vote, the House rejected Matheson's procedural attempt to get a direct vote on the pay raise.

Considering that it's summertime, and summertime ain't no time to have a jelly spine, the Iswe-alrite Congress wasn't about to cross these pay raise Philistines:

The pay raise would also apply to the vice president - who is president of the Senate - congressional leaders and Supreme Court justices. This year, Vice President Cheney, House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Chief Justice William Rehnquist John Roberts receive $212,100. Associate justices receive $203,000. House and Senate party leaders get $183,500.

President George W. Bush's salary of $400,000 is unaffected by the legislation.

Good! He doesn't deserve a raise! George's approval rating is down to 24% in Maine. As we all know - as goes Maine, so goes the nation!

But I digress.

One begins to wonder if 'Congress' isn't the feminine form of a masculine word for legislature.

But even if it were, the American people rate a less-complimentary comparison. In any other nation in the world, if the national legislature were to give itself such undeserved raises, the people would be storming the building in protest.

But not in America! Whatever the Congress wants to do, even if it means taking a raise for not doing a job they were hired to do, well, that's just ducky by us!

(No! Dick! Don't Shoot! It's just an expression! There are no ducks over here! Ask Nino! You'd believe him, wouldn't you? Doesn't he call them like you see them? Sure - he does! Really!)

Whew! That was close!

Despite the fact that too many people don't give a damn about voting or its importance, at least three people felt strongly enough to express their concerns to the New York Times that voting security isn't taken seriously. They would like to see that attitude change along with laws mandating election reform - and soon:


Voters, Be Worried. Be Very Worried. (3 Letters)
June 14, 2006

• The integrity of our elections is certainly not a partisan concern or a left-right issue, but a civic matter of immeasurable importance. If we aren't free to vote our representatives and leaders in and out of office, we really aren't free at all, whether we declare ourselves as Democrats, Republicans or independents.
Mark Crispin Miller New York, June 13, 2006 The writer, a professor of media studies at New York University, is the author of Fooled Again.
• Election reform must happen at many levels, but first and foremost, laws must be passed to ensure that top election officials in states are barred from serving in any capacity with a campaign.
Mary Alice Carr Maplewood, N.J., June 13, 2006
• When one considers what occurred first in Florida in 2000 and then in Ohio in 2004, one has good reason to be concerned.

Election reform requires our immediate attention as a non-negotiable priority. If we fail in this effort, nothing else really matters. Our integrity as a nation and our standing in the world community, already deservedly weak, will be further eroded. For our system of governance to work, we need appropriate checks and balances and Congressional oversight, both of which are directly dependent on an electoral process that is not fraudulent.

If free and fair elections do not exist here in America, democracy in our country, already under siege, is further jeopardized.

Emily M. Kerner Belvedere, Calif., June 12, 2006

Robert C. Kohler of the Tribune Media Services recognizes the importance of secure and trustworthy vote tabulation, and wrote this in his June 15, 2006 column about the 'allegedly closely watched election on June 6 [in] the 50th District in traditionally conservative San Diego County':

A Vote of No Confidence
Democracy left to languish in living rooms, garages

[O]nce again, America has moved on from a shoddily conducted election — making Congress seem about as trustworthy as a New Orleans rebuilt atop the toxic waste stirred up by Hurricane Katrina. Somebody’s going to get sick from this sooner or later.

Indeed, the “democracy extremists” out there — the ones who take procedural integrity seriously, especially in the era of electronic voting — are sick already.

I have no confidence in Bilbray’s 4,732-vote “victory” over Busby.
Worse, I fear that democracy in the electronic era is in the hands of people
who regard it as more trouble than it’s worth.
In San Diego County, the voting registrar, Mikel Haas, apparently following time-honored custom (or whatever), sent machines and other equipment home with poll workers for as much as a week before the June 6 election, to be stored in living rooms, garages, etc., shattering all control over these insecure machines and opening up, in [Bev] Harris’ [of Black Box Voting] words, “a huge gaping maw of an attack hole.”

Some of the poll workers themselves were incredulous and contacted LA-based blogger and democracy maven Brad Friedman. “My neighbors were quite surprised when I showed them one of the touchscreen systems from my garage,” one of them wrote. Friedman sounded the alarm to his readers, which is how I found out about it.

A spokesman at Haas’ office subsequently confirmed the “sleepover” (as Friedman put it). And another spokesman, at California Secretary of State Bruce McPherson’s office (who took the better part of two days to return my calls) refused to answer a simple, point-blank question: Were chain-of-custody requirements violated in San Diego County?

Instead, she e-mailed me a copy of the secretary of state’s certification process, which seemed to confirm that indeed they were.

Further calls to McPherson’s office have not been returned.
Let’s forget for a moment the political significance of Bilbray vs. Busby, or even who won, and pare the contest down to one essential fact: The use of Diebold optical-scan and touchscreen machines in last week’s voting in San Diego County was subject to rigid procedural standards set down both by the California Secretary of State’s office and the National Association of State Election Directors, the point of which was to guarantee that the machines arrived at their polling places untampered with and inviolate.
This is no small matter.
People across the political spectrum have begun waking up to the immense risks posed by electronic voting. For instance, conservative CNN commentator Lou Dobbs recently weighed in that:
“The security of our elections and the integrity of our democracy is in jeopardy.
Nationwide, there is concern and even alarm that electronic voting machines
are simply too easily compromised and vulnerable to fraud.”
And Diebold machines, which were decertified in California at one point, are probably the most controversial of all. Computer experts given even brief access to a Diebold machine have demonstrated how easily it can be hacked, with election-changing results.

[Bev Harris] put it a little more bluntly:

“The Diebold system is only as good
as the most recent person who gets at it.
It’s a defective system.”
I don’t know whether the secretary of state’s allegiance is to partisan politics or just a quick count. While many people argue that the machines shouldn’t be used at all, McPherson, who recertified Diebold, at least acknowledges their security danger and has established strict “chain of custody” standards for each machine and memory card. No unauthorized person should ever be alone with them, and “Any breach of control over a memory card shall require that its contents be zeroed.”

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? [Who guards the guardians?]

This directive opens the door to using unfounded security challenges as a means of tampering with the vote count. Establish doubt over security, and the contested tallies will be wiped out - dropped like a hot rock.

Which brings up this proposal for a more reliable means of demonstrating vote security:


A Vote For Secure Voting
Verified Voting Applauds League of Women Voters Passage of Resolution in Support of Voter-Verified Paper Records, Audits
Verified Voting Foundation

June 12th, 2006

Verified Voting applauds the League of Women Voters (LWVUS) for its passage today of a resolution in support of voter-verified paper records and mandatory random manual audits of voting systems nationwide. The resolution was drafted by the League of Women Voters Minnesota (LWVMN) and put forward at the National League's Annual Convention, being held in Minneapolis.

Verified Voting's Bobbie Brinegar, Board Member of the Washington DC LWV, said "This support for voter-verified paper records, coming from the League of Women Voters, is truly a major step forward for election integrity. The League has long been a credible and reliable force in safeguarding our nation's elections."

Several state Leagues, like Minnesota's, have been instrumental in supporting the passage of legislation for voter-verified paper records.

The resolution text follows:

Resolution Related to Program Requiring a Voter-Verifiable Paper Ballot
or Paper Record with Electronic Voting Machines
Whereas: Some LWVs have had difficulty applying SARA Resolution (Secure, Accurate, Recountable and Accessible) which passed at the last convention, and

Whereas: Paperless electronic voting systems are not inherently secure, can malfunction, and do not provide a recountable audit trail,

Therefore be it resolved that: The position on the Citizen's Right to Vote be interpreted to affirm that LWVUS supports only voting systems that are designed so that:

• a) they employ a voter-verifiable paper ballot or other paper record, said paper being the official record of the voter's intent; and

• b) the voter can verify, either by eye or with the aid of suitable devices for those who hve impaired vision, tht the paper ballot/record accurately reflects his or her intent, and

• c) such verification takes place while the voter is still in the process of voting; and

• d) the paper ballot/record is used for audits and recounts; and

• e) the vote totals can be verified by an independent hand count of the paper ballot/record; and

• f) routine audits of the paper ballot/record in randomly selected precincts can be conducted in every election, and the results published by the jurisdiction.

Considering that the current corrupt regime has much to fear should they lose power - and not from the 'opposition' party by any means - I am losing hope that election reform can be initiated peacefully.

Watching how quickly Bu$hco recovered last night once they could show Karl Rove's real or forged 'release from prosecution', one has to wonder if Karl had resumed his job earlier in the day, burning up the phone lines to remind media moguls that the Enforcer was back. Certainly, said moguls aren't stupid enough to think otherwise, and may well have been issuing previously-prepared orders to their editors and producers once the announcement was released.

I could hear Karl all over the PBS Newshour 'coverage' last night, fawning over our mighty sword-wielding Goliath, King George, and praising his valiant victory in the Fertile Crescent over that fearsome terrorist, that rock-throwing pipsqueek David, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

As it was thus in Ye Olde Bushtestament, so shall it be in the New, as proclaimed by FAUX 'News' and 'News' Corp in the Gospels according to Alberto, Antonin, Condi and Don.

No matter how the vote really goes.

Amen.

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